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Old 02-10-2007, 01:20 PM   #1
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Passion of the Christ Directors cut Review

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Double Dip Digest: The Passion of the Christ
Gibson's controversial film finally gets a definitive DVD fit for a King.
by Stax

February 9, 2007 - Perhaps the most controversial of all time (or at least in recent memory), director-co-screenwriter-producer Mel Gibson's 2004 film offers a gruesome depiction of the arrest, trial, scourging and crucifixion of Jesus (admirably portrayed by James Caviezel). Gibson's blockbuster still divides critics and viewers even three years later. Is The Passion an artist's profession of his religious faith? An anti-Semitic screed? A glorified snuff film? Or all of the above? As with any work of art, one should watch it and judge for themselves.

Originally released on DVD in the summer of 2004, the initial DVD of The Passion had no extras at all, not even a commentary track by its superstar director. It was a single-disc release in 2.35:1 aspect ratio whose only special features were English and Spanish subtitles. That was it.

Not so this time. This new two-disc "definitive edition" released by Fox Home Entertainment features a slew of extras, not the least of which are four audio commentary tracks. The first is the Filmmaker Commentary with Mel Gibson, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, and editor John Wright. The second is a Production Commentary with Icon producer Stephen McEveety, Ted Rae and Keith Vanderlaan. Then there is a Theologian Commentary with Mel Gibson, Father William J. Fulco, Gerry Matatics, and Father John Bartunek. Fulco is a scholar who actually painstakingly translated the screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald and Gibson into Latin and Aramaic (which he concedes is only an approximation of what the dead language would have sounded like). Finally, there is a Music Commentary with John Debney, which is only available on selected scenes.

Ironically, for such a controversial film from a director who has only gotten himself into more controversy since it was released, the Filmmaker Commentary is surprisingly banal. It is the usual "yeah, it was cold that night, wasn't it?" fare one could find on any old DVD. Some explanations of how certain shots were accomplished are engaging but for a far more fulfilling commentary track one should listen to the Theologian track. For a film on this subject matter, isn't that what you really want to hear anyway?

The second disc includes an engrossing, 100 minute-long featurette, By His Wounds we are Healed: The Making of the Passion of the Christ. Featuring interviews with Gibson, his producers, key crew members and star Jim Caviezel, as well as various theologians, By His Wounds covers the making of the film from its inception through to its controversial but wildly successful release.

The By His Wounds featurette is broken up into the following chapters:

Intro & Script Evolution

Language Barriers

Finding Jerusalem

Artistic Inspiration

The Right Role

Evil Personified

Tailoring a perfect fit

The Director

Grace in Photography

Make up and Visual Effects

The Earthquake

The Crucifixion

Jim Surrendering

Breaking the Tension

Wrapping Production

The Cutting Room

The Score

Designing the Sound Effects

Guerilla Marketing

Spiritual Journey

"Below the Line" Panel

In addition to By His Wounds, there is The Legacy extra, which features:

Paths of the Journey

On Language

Anno Domini

Crucifixion: Punishment in the Ancient World Through the Ages

The definitive edition of The Passion also includes two deleted scenes: "Pilate," which now has the subtitle for the controversial "Let his blood be upon us and our children!" line from the Gospel of Matthew that was excised from the theatrical version; and "Don't Cry," set during Jesus' carrying of the cross. The image galleries include production art, historical texts and art images. The theatrical trailer is included as well.

In addition to the original theatrical cut, this new DVD has the 2005 re-cut version of the film (seamlessly branched) that excises some of its more gruesome moments of violence.

The Passion of the Christ definitive edition is presented in 1:88:1 aspect ratio, and the sharp transfer captures the nuances of Caleb Deschanel's beautiful cinematography. Its audio formats are English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), (Dolby Digital 5.1), and the languages are Aramaic/Latin/Hebrew with subtitles in both English and Spanish.

Overall, this two-disc definitive edition of The Passion of the Christ is worth buying whether one is a devoted Christian who wants a better DVD for their collection, a film buff interested in how the movie was made, or just a casual viewer curious what all the fuss is about.

IGN's Ratings for The Passion of the Christ (Definitive Edition)
Rating Description
out of 10 click here for ratings guide
(out of 10 / not an average)
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